Updated: November 9, 2012 4:36PM
The delicate half-sandwich was neatly layered with baby greens, cage-free egg slices, pesto aioli, avocado and roasted turkey breast.
Melissa Davidson bagged it with a packet of imported cheese and a pear, and crimped the top.
Tomorrow, it would be eaten by one of the clients of Connections for the Homeless.
It was donated to Northwestern University’s branch of the Campus Kitchen Project, a nationwide 33-school non-profit. Volunteers, mostly students like Davidson, pick up leftover food here and make it into 500 meals a week for people down on their luck.
Davidson, in Allison Hall’s kitchen, knows it’s a coin flip whether the hard pears she’s packing will ripen before they get to Connections.
“Our goal is getting food to people,” she said. “It’s not a perfect world. We do what we can.”
Volunteer Leigh Kukanza had an idea to make it easier for individuals to donate: Volunteers outside Winnetka’s Grand Foods, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, will collect food for 700 Thanksgiving dinners, and grocery bags for 21 families. The store at 606 Green Bay Road has pledged to match donations.
Kukanza, 19, a volunteer since high school, says her Highland Park family shops at Grand, as do many others she knows.
“We’re not only collecting food,” she said. “We’re building awareness.”
Commitment ranges from energetic altruism to just fulfilling a sorority volunteer requirement, but there’s a waiting list. Students say it’s handy – on campus – and hands-on.
“You see the food from the beginning to end,” said junior Yulia Bandurovych.
Most comes from the school’s cafeterias. Wilmette volunteer Chris West, 63, collects at four campus stops.
At Elder Hall, he loads pans of bean stew, squash, tofu cacciatore, meatballs and lentil stew.
“Three days (old), it’s got to go,” lead cook Javier Nieves said. That’s what his employer, Sodexo, and the Evanston health inspector say.
“One time, [the Allen Center] asked me if I could use 30 pizzas. ‘Sure.’” West shrugged. “I guess they ordered it for some kind of event, and it didn’t work out.”
At Allison Hall, program coordinator Katie Darin weighs and itemizes the food, and sends a copy to the donors.
There’s a tax advantage to donating prepared food.
Three big food-providing organizations say the IRS allows the cost of the ingredients to be written off, plus half the unrealized appreciation. Unrealized appreciation is market value minus cost.
So, a plan to sell $1 worth of cacciatore ingredients for $3, that results in a donation of cacciatore instead, gets a write-off of $2.
The maximum deduction can’t exceed twice the cost, however, so if the cacciatore’s priced at $5, the deduction’s still $2.
The organizations call their interpretation a guide, and advise donors contact an accountant.
Donations are key to the operation of 265 Pret a Manger restaurants. The Evanston location donates the cute half-sandwiches, in sleeves printed as follows: “Made today, gone today. Every night we give our fresh food to charities helping the hungry, rather than selling it the next day. It’s the right thing to do.”